Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Flying Monkeys" - - Flies Of The Planet Of The Apes

When you sit down to watch a movie called "Flying Monkeys" you expect to get a movie like this.

And you do, don't get me wrong, this movie has all the flying monkey monsters you could want in a movie called "Flying Monkeys." And it has lots of action and blood and everything you want in a movie like this. But when I remember this movie, I'll more likely remember this:

I had this movie for awhile now and I figured it was going to be awful so I set it aside and watched Evil Dead, Spring Breakers, (working on reviews for those) and a bunch of other movies that are too boring or confounding to review so I won't bother listing them. The point is I really didn't want to watch this movie. I put it in and was ticking off plot points on my note pad as they introduced the characters: absentee/always late dad, scholar/good girl, bitchy/slut girl, hot girl, douchebag boyfriend, etc. Standard character types.

I will make an aside here and say it is always interesting to see why certain demographics are chosen for horror movie victims. I get the teenagers thing, but Axe Giant chose troubled youths while this movie chose middle-class teens, even though the audience for the two films are the same the victims aren't. That might be an essay you might be seeing appear on VideoVandals in the coming weeks.

So as the characters in "Flying Monkeys" are being introduced we realize Joan is the protagonist. It's her graduation day and her father is racing to get there on time but is stuck behind a tractor in traffic. Lame. He gets there late and she says something like "yeah, what else is new" blah blah. We find out she wants to be a veterinarias, so the dad decides to buy her a pet to make up for being late. For some reason, in a small Kansas town the shadiest man runs the shadiest pet store. He sells endangered species that are shipped from China. So the dad buys his daughter a monkey from a main street pet shop that not only sells birds and puppies but . . . bootleg animals? I can't think of the term but you know, illegal animals. I was watching this plot unfold with the oddest sequence of events and wondering how dumb this movie will get.

And then Joan gets her heart broken.


Joan loves her new pet monkey that she names Skippy. That night was Grad Night and her and her boyfriend Jason were supposed to "hang out" but since Joan is a good girl, she says "Hey, Jason, why don't you come over and my dad will make dinner and you can meet my new monkey!" Joan is visibly happy for the first time in the movie and she wants her boyfriend to share in her excitement, but all he wants to do is have sex.

"I'm like a junkie without sex, I go through withdrawals," Jason, and every other man everywhere, pleads.

"You should want to spend time with me to spend time with me." Joan replies. "Not because you want to get in my pants."

Brief Pause

"Alright, whatever. Have fun with your old man and your stupid ass monkey." Jason says as he ditches his girlfriend.

"I'm not a stupid ass monkey . . ."

I was eating a burrito, or cleaning off my coffee table, or doing something definitely non-movie-watching related when that scene played out and it instantly caught my attention. I just kind of sat there for a moment as the camera lingered on Joan and her new friend Skippy.

Not only have I had friends that have had that happened to them, but I've been that asshole guy. Sans monkey, of course, but after that scene I was like "Oh, shit just got real."

And it does.

It turns out that Skippy is actually a demon monkey from China called a Xigo. He's actually one of the last of his race. A clan of Chinese hunters have been killing them for centuries and while they're on the trail of one in China, Skippy is eating the townsfolk of Gale, Kansas. Oh sure, he's cute and cuddly during the day, but at night he transforms into, you guessed it, Paul Buyan.

One interesting plot point is that Xigos if killed by anything other than a blessed weapon, they split into two. So while the cops and the hillbillies open fire on them with shotguns, two become four become eight and so on. Kind of gives it a "Gremlins" feel plus it's an interesting way to explain how they become so overwhelming so quickly.

This looks like it would be disturbing, but this is Xigo porn.

Skippy is still the leader of the Xigos and when not leading them on the hunt for food, they usually attack people who have wronged Joan. Her boyfriend Jason is the first to get gutted, but in an interesting subtext he is killed while he is cheating on Joan. You have to wonder what news hurts Joan more: the fact her boyfriend was killed or he was killed when he was with the school slut? Joan doesn't make the connection that Skippy is out taking revenge on her behalf. After all, during the day he's so cute . . .

"Flying Monkeys" is about flying monkeys. And at that it succeeds and fulfills the promise of the title. But I also believe there's another level, one where the dad disappoints, the boyfriend cheats, and the only other male in Joan's life is peaceful in her presence but an animal around others. During the day he cuddles and plays with her hair. At night, he hunts and kills for her honor. Despite all of the men who let Joan down in one way or another, she never wavers from who she is. She doesn't give in to Jason's sexual demands or Skippy's implied romantic demands. A lot of women do. Just because they are afraid of being alone. But Joan doesn't. Joan can't. She's a warrior.

Interesting subtext for a movie called "Flying Monkeys." It didn't have to have anything more than flying monkeys in it for the producers to make their money back. But it did have more, and I am thankful for films that do that.

*I do have to add that when I first got this movie, or any movie like this, I try to imagine the worst possible line/scene I can and silently pray it will not be in there. For this movie, I thought a monkey would fly out of someone's butt ala "Wayne's World" I am very grateful that did not happen.


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